China-UAE trade: Enter the dragon


Rattle off any of the figures related to China in the UAE and probably only one of them is better than all other countries — but it’s the one that counts: growth. China is easily outstripping all other competitors when it comes to the pace at which trade, business ties and tourism are growing in relation to the UAE. And that pace is truly astronomical.

China-UAE trade has soared by an average 35 percent every year for the past decade, surpassing $35bn last year, according to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. It now represents 10 percent of total trade excluding oil.

In 2011, Dubai’s non-oil trade with China was valued at AED99.8bn ($27.2bn), making it the emirate’s second largest trading partner behind India. The figures for 2012 have not yet been finalised but it is expected that China will become only the second country in the UAE’s trade history to jump the headline figure of AED100bn.

Just as significantly, about 60 percent of China’s total trade passes through the UAE, from where it is re-exported to Africa and Europe, making the Gulf country one of the Asian powerhouse’s most crucial partners and the UAE one of the greatest beneficiaries of the rise and rise of China, as other countries in Africa and the Middle East also scramble to get on board the Sino-train. Even the UAE’s largest trading partner, India, relies on the Gulf country for a significant portion of its Chinese imports.

“As one of our largest trading partners, China is very significant for the UAE and Dubai,” Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry director general Hamad Buamim tells Arabian Business.

“[And] judging by the will to enhance cooperation shown by both sides it is likely that the UAE and China will succeed in building stronger bilateral ties. Trade, tourism, construction and financial services will be the main sectors of mutual benefit.”

There are now 2,411 Chinese companies with Dubai Chamber membership, up 18 percent in only two years. The majority are in building materials, electrical, machinery, garments, gifts and novelty items. A further 1,400 are estimated to be based elsewhere in the UAE. Buamim says there has also been an increase in the number of Chinese firms using the emirate’s onshore financial hub, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), as a platform to access markets in region. Large Chinese companies such as the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and oil giant Petro China have set up there.

“We envisage this trend continuing,” Buamim says.

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